US failing to heed the threat from Iran, Abu Dhabi think tank says
ABU DHABI // The failure of the US to understand Iran’s power structure could harm global security, and Tehran’s meddling in the Middle East is not likely to end soon, a report published by an Abu Dhabi think tank suggests.
The report, released by Trends Research and Advisory, says the US is unable or unwilling to look at Iranian religious leaders’ control over their population as part of its foreign policy agenda.
This has hampered its ability to “assess long-term drivers of events, and to think and act strategically”, says the paper, which was co-written by US defence department official Lincoln Bloomfield and published on Monday.
“Officials are so overwhelmed with tactical concerns that it is very difficult for empowered officials to see the big picture and act with a shared strategic outlook,” it says.
It criticises the US for dismissing Iran’s illegal and oppressive actions, and says that since the 1979 revolution, the US has continued to believe Tehran would reform, despite its foundation in religious politics and its violence at home and abroad.
“This attitude has persisted regardless of the actions taken by the government in suppressing their own people and promoting extremist violence abroad,” the authors say.
“Iran continues to provide political and material support to Shia populations in various Arab states encourage these groups to engage in insurrections. These actions clearly demonstrate Iran has little to no interest in adhering to international law and norms.”
They provide examples including the 1990 election of president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was considered open to improving relations with the West, and reformist president Mohammed Khatami in 1997, as indicating the possibility of change in Iran.
“This attitude persists despite the evidence that in the conduct of its foreign policy, Iran does not appear to have much interest in complying with prevailing international norms and standards,” said Dr Richard Burchill, Trends’ director of research.
“Iran believes its self-designation as a revolutionary republic allows it to reject existing international standards and act according to its own views of what is acceptable.”
This has led to surging instability through Iran’s open support for violent states and terrorist groups, Dr Burchill said.
“The report makes a strong point that we hope politicians and analysts in the West will start to consider when thinking about Iran’s place in the international system.”
Gulf states including the UAE have long criticised Iran for stirring turmoil in countries such as Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.
They pressed the US to take a stronger role in persuading Tehran to stop interfering in the affairs of Middle East nations, as it and other world powers were negotiating curbs to Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for dropping sanctions.
This year, Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran after it refused to condemn an attack on its embassy in Tehran, while the UAE recalled its ambassador and downgraded relations.
The report highlights Iran’s involvement in conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon and Iraq.
With “very little prospect for change” in the immediate future, the study was aimed at educating global policymakers, commentators and advisers on the Iranian regime’s doctrine and behaviour.
“We saw a need for a traditional political development analysis to explain all of Iran’s actions since 1979 and provide a more informed analytical foundation for policy formulation, in Washington and elsewhere, following the nuclear accord,” Mr Bloomfield said.
Dr Theodore Karasik, senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Dubai, said that understanding Washington’s mindset and preparing for the next administration was critical for the UAE.
“The UAE sees Iran’s perfidious behaviour and seeks more US resolve to reject Tehran’s push into the Middle East’s core,” Dr Karasik said. “But we will have to wait until November for even a partial answer to future US policy towards Iran and the impact on the UAE.”
How Well Does Washington Understand Iran? was written by Mr Bloomfield and Dr Ramesh Sepehrrad, from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in the US.